Last year, I attended BEA for the first time. The months leading up to it were ridiculous, full of over-analyzing and worrying and strict budgeting and bugging my blogger friend Shanyn with every little question I could think of. I have anxiety and this was my first trip out of state by myself! I was terrified! But after my week in New York, I look back and laugh at how silly I had been.
I won't be going to BEA this year but I figured that my crazy months of worrying could actually help out some people who might be freaking out right now as well. Here are a few things on what I learned in NYC. (And keep in mind - these are my opinions. They're not official rules or demands or anything)
1. Comfortable shoes - I read a lot of posts last year that advised against flip-flops, saying to opt for something more nice looking and comfortable. And like a petulant child, I stomped my foot and said "But my flip-flops are nice looking and they are very comfortable." Shanyn tried - on several occasions - to get me to look into other kinds of shoes but my mind was set.
Big mistake. Huge.
I ended up destroying my favorite pair of flip-flops. In just four days, I had worn them out so much that they just ... collapsed. I had to make an emergency stop at Old Navy for a new pair just minutes before a publisher party started. And the pain in my feet ... horrible.
Definitely do NOT wear flip-flops during BEA. If you're so determined to wear them - pack them and wear them around NYC! But with the amount of walking you'll be doing during the convention, you'll need shoes with padding. Thick, thick padding.
2. Shipping books - For the love of meatballs, don't ship them from the convention. I was all for it, at first, because I wouldn't have to lug all of my books back to my brownstone in Brooklyn on the subway every day. But $80 to ship books? Really? Maybe I'm just a cheapskate but noooo way, José.
The majority of my housemates and I ended up buying boxes at a nearby Staples and we shipped them from a small, local post office in Brooklyn. I shipped 50 pounds of books and it cost me $17. SEVENTEEN DOLLARS YOU GUYS.
But make sure you do it during the week so that you don't have to go on an epic, wild race against time to make it before the post office closes on Saturday morning like we did. I get all miserable just remembering that disaster.
3. BEA attire - I spent $150 on fancypants clothes after I was assured that BEA was a professional event where everyone would be dressed in professional suits and outfits. Um, no. BEA was jeans city. I even saw a girl wearing pajama bottoms. Wear what you want to wear. If you want to be super fancy in a dress or whatever, that's awesome! But don't feel like you have to dress up. I wore jeans and a graphic t-shirt under a cardigan the whole time and I still talked to some great publishers and book people.
They're not going to turn their noses up at you because you're wearing jeans, you guys. Trust me. Just ... don't wear pajama bottoms. Please.
4. Carrying books - BRING A BACKPACK. Seriously. I thought a few tote bags would suffice but I had to stop every hour to rest and the bruises on my shoulders at the end of night were horrible. Actually, not just my shoulders. I'm not sure how it happened but when I got home after that week, I had bruises everywhere. Legs, arms, shoulders. Even my face.
BEA is quite the battlefield, it seems.
5. Traveling - I know a lot of people are terrified of the subway, but my first ten minutes in NYC has scarred me of taxis and car services for life. For someone like me, with anxiety, I don't recommend using either. The taxi drivers ... I won't get into what happened with me and my first taxi driver. NYC drivers are insane. But the car services WILL rip you off. I used it two times while I was there. They'll tell you a price on the phone and when you get dropped off, that price will be doubled. It's aggravating. And the car always stinks.
If you plan on exploring NYC while you're there (and you should!) I definitely recommend buying a metro card. You pay $30 for seven days of subways and bus rides. Totally unlimited - with a 15 minute wait between each use - and totally worth it. They're not as scary as you think! Just avoid eye contact with shady people and when obnoxious musicians approach, turn your head and try not to laugh. You'll be golden.
6. Talking with publishers - I was so grateful that I had a blogger friend who was nice enough to introduce me to certain publishers and book people but the talks I had with publishers on my own were even better. With big groups of bloggers and a busy publisher who is getting approached by different people every thirty seconds, it's not easy to really speak with them. I kind of just stood there all awkwardly while the rest of the group fought to say something. It wasn't until I broke away from my friends that I really got the chance to talk to people.
Don't be afraid to go exploring BEA on your own, you guys. You'll miss so much if you're only worried about following your group.
7. Talking with bloggers - I was so nervous. For some reason I had it in my head that nobody would recognize me or worst, they'd recognize me but not want to meet me. But the cool thing about the blogosphere is it doesn't matter if you know someone or if you're familiar with their blog - it's so easy to just start talking. I was surprised at the amount of people that recognized me and stopped to say hi. I kind of felt like a celebrity! And I met some awesome blogger in the line for Leanna Heiber's Darker Still. I don't know her name and I don't know her blog but we talked for a good thirty minutes like we had known each other for years!
Say hi and introduce yourself! Meeting fellow bloggers was one of my favorite things about my BEA week!
If you have any questions, comment and ask away! And to those of you going - HAVE FUN!! I'm so heartbroken that I won't be there this year but I will live vicariously through you and your tweets!